Sympathy for Scooby | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

"Have you heard about that interview with Billy Ray Cyrus?" Jeremy Coleman asks me, referring to Cyrus' lament that Miley's career has destroyed their family. "I guess there is a potential that there is an evil sorcerer pulling the strings behind rock music." 

Coleman's joking, but he draws that belief for the latest installment in his Robotic Hands of God series, the satirical album Ragnarok N' Roll. Coleman (also of experimental hip-hop duo Dreadnots) describes it as "the story of the resurrection of rock music from the dead, as told by ex-rock 'n' rollers turned electronic musicians." 

The album explores and exposes warnings against rock 'n' roll's evils, even as it reinforces its mystique, and generates a feeling of apocalyptic dread. Buried throughout the album are samples of rock greats, as well as "the ones responsible for killing rock 'n' roll." The samples may make Coleman's label, Audio Reconnaissance, a little nervous, though it's doubtful even Lars Ulrich could pinpoint Metallica content in the dense aural collage of heavy beats, dark psychedelic loops and cultish conspiracy theories. 

The record begins with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker playing records backwards, attempting to decipher hidden satanic meanings. The track "Mark of the Beats" features an explanation of The Beatles' socialist plot to break up the American family, and in "Ragnarock-Steady" a member of a doomsday cult denounces Scooby-Doo, Kenny Loggins, Ghostbusters and Huey Lewis. 

Both Ragnarok N' Roll and its companion album, 2009's Voice of the Last Days, include recordings of Coleman's tripped-out calls to prayer hotlines. On the last album, he asked God to make his beats fresh. This time, he asks if rock music really is the tool of Satan. 

"I think all rock music fits in that category," the operator replies.

In a small way, the album's a reminder of what it feels like to be kinda freaked out by Black Sabbath or Slayer. When you're a kid -- longer on sensitivity and shorter on perspective -- delving into that world can seem like a dangerous, thrilling path. Especially if you suspect it may put your soul in jeopardy.

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